Over the past couple of weeks my email inbox and social media feeds have been swamped with the ever so popular “best of” lists of the past year. I have seen everything from the top movies, albums, books, news stories, bars, most popular adult beverages, restaurants, recipes, dog stories, and I even saw a list that had the the best mug shot of 2016. For those who like to compile their own lists, Facebook has a feature that will mashup your photos and posts from the past year and you can have your own “year in review” video ready to share with your friends and family.
Personally, I enjoy looking back at the past year, and I have a lot of fun looking over the different “best of” lists that come out. I do this for both my professional world of fundraising and database technology, as well as my own interests and hobbies. Some of the lists are silly and many don’t reflect my own best and worst but it does make for interesting conversations during the holidays as well as a way to regroup and start preparing for next year. Some of you might be singing the old Frank Sinatra song “It was a very good year” while others are playing a sad song on repeat that represents a not-so-good year either at work or at home. Regardless of the song you’re playing right now, 2017 is almost here. So, I listed a few of my own reflections and look back at 2016 in the nonprofit and fundraising world, which is what we here at Aplos get up every day to be a part of.
People are still donating and want to make a difference
In general, giving is still trending upwards, and according to several nonprofit news sources, many nonprofits are reporting solid numbers in 2016. This is good news given a long and emotionally charged election year combined with several ups and downs in the economic forecasts. Last week, the Salvation Army saw a 47% increase in online giving after a player from the Dallas Cowboys brought positive attention to their charity on national television.
Good storytelling is the gateway for more donations
No matter how big or small your nonprofit is, almost all fundraising experts agree that by telling compelling stories and focusing on the impact of the people you serve will result in better awareness, loyalty, and donations for your organization.
You cannot thank your donors and volunteers enough
It is so easy to take for granted volunteers no matter if they are monthly donors, board members, or just folks who help answer the phones once a week. One of the main priorities of all nonprofits should be thanking and engaging your volunteers often. I have never met a donor or active volunteer who said the organization they represent appreciated them too much.
Social Media is a powerful tool and is not going away
With the positive results of programs like #GivingTuesday and many crowdfunding campaigns, online fundraising and social media are both here to stay. If you have not embraced the power of social media for raising money and awareness, you are likely to be leaving opportunity for growth on the table. No matter how long your organization has been in business, you need to be engaged in some form of social media.
Donor Retention is the name of the game
There is a reason there are so many articles and resources devoted to retaining donors and volunteers. Retention is a tried and true nonprofit strategy and should be a priority for all nonprofits who rely on monthly or annual donations. As much as everyone loves those big one-time donations, my own experience has always shown that regular donors always prove to be much more valuable and will be most loyal to your organization over time. When it comes to retention, thank those donors and volunteers often and take good care of them.
Fundraising and nonprofit work is unpredictable, hard work but also very rewarding
If I can offer any encouragement to those of you who are on the front lines every day in the nonprofit sector, please know you really are making a difference. Think about your community or the area you serve and ask the question: “what would happen if we did not exist?” For all the challenges of funding, motivating volunteers and board members, messaging and various forms of red tape that everyone deals with, remember all the good being done because of your nonprofit. Don’t forget that what you do is making a difference.
Wishing you all the best in your final days of 2016 and as we look ahead to 2017, the entire team at Aplos is looking forward to being a part of your fundraising journey in the weeks and months ahead.
Happy New Year!